When New Albany officials first pitched the idea of an international business park to representatives from Discover Financial Services, much was left to the imagination.
Surrounded by cornfields, city officials had to ask the farmer to plow a path for the credit-card company's reps to envision the possible site for their future headquarters.
"They brought them out and said, 'This is a cornfield, but five years from now, it's going to be a thriving business park,'" said Jennifer Chrysler, New Albany's community-development director. "The company representatives believed they had the conviction to make these types of investments and it's the strategy we've been using consistently since 1998."
Today, the site covers about 11.5 million square feet of development between Franklin and Licking counties, and it is home to more than two dozen retail, technology and manufacturing companies.
With the 20th anniversary of New Albany's International Business Park on the horizon, here's a look at what improvement projects are wrapping up and what's to come.
Beech Road corridor
Improvements made to the Beech Road corridor just south of state Route 161 between Worthington and Morse roads are expected to be finished by November.
The $26 million, yearlong project reconstructed the nearly 2-mile strip of road. What was once a two-lane country road that flooded frequently, Chrysler said, has widened to five lanes. The five lanes stretching south taper into a three-lane section and then back into two lanes once it hits Morse Road.
Nearly 6,000 drivers traveled that stretch of Beech Road daily in 2017, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Aside from its practical purposes, Chrysler said improvements to Beech Road give that section of the Business Park a "sense of arrival and place." Cycling lanes were added to both sides of the road, and a landscape median separates the opposite lanes of traffic. Additional projects that recently were completed include construction on the Mink Street interchange with Route 161 and a $15 million extension of water and sewer lines along Beech Road.
Construction to the Mink Street interchange, which leads into Innovation Campus Corridor Way, was a collaboration with ODOT. The project built a road network that connects to Mink to help separate truck traffic from car traffic.
With new roads and waterlines, Chrysler said, construction of two additional waterline projects are in the works.
The projects, an extension of approximately 12,000 feet of water transmission along Morse and Beech roads and the construction of a waterline booster station, are slated to begin in October.
When completed, Chrysler said, the lines would open an additional 2,000 acres for development and support water infrastructure, namely waterlines feeding into Facebook's new data center off Beech Road. Waterline projects should be completed by spring 2019.
Facebook's $750 million, 970,000-square-foot complex is under construction on 345 acres on the east side of Beech Road and south of the Route 161 interchange.
The first phase of building will be completed in 2019, Chrysler said.
Although Facebook has only committed to building this first phase, Chrysler said, its site includes up to 2.7 million square feet overall, so future development is possible.
When AEP's transmissions operations facility opened its first 175,000 square-foot building last year, it was already at capacity. So construction began shortly after on a twin facility next door, said Scott McAfee, a New Albany spokesman.
The offices are in Licking County and bring more than 1,200 jobs to the area, McAfee said.
With the split of Bob Evans Foods from its restaurant division last year, the prepared-foods company will leave its current New Albany headquarters campus on Smith's Mill Road.
The foods division isn't moving far though. It plans to go to an office space being developed along Walton Parkway just west of U.S. Route 62 within the business park.
The restaurant division plans to stay in its current building and could lease the unused space.
In June, more than 130 acres in Licking County's Jersey Township were approved for annexation into New Albany and its business park. And soon the city hopes to see an additional 450 acres near Beech and Morse roads through annexation.
Despite New Albany's acquisition of more land, Chrysler said, there's a false narrative about the city's goals.
"I think one of the myths out there is that New Albany is a freight train moving east on 161," Chrysler said. "For practical purposes, that's not possible."
For one, an agreement between Jersey Township, New Albany and the village of Johnstown -- known as the West Licking County Accord -- was adopted in April 2018 to help with this issue.
The agreement established "a formalized way for all parties to stay informed and communicate as they decide if, how, and where development occurs," according to the document.
Chrysler said now all three entities can collaborate on where to keep rural corridors and where is the best place for commercial growth.
About 2,740 people live in Jersey Township, according to the Licking County Planning Commission. New Albany boasts about four times as many residents, with a population of 10,718, according to the U.S Census Bureau's 2017 estimates.
There's also the issue of services.
Because New Albany buys its water from Columbus, the city has what's called a 208 Plan. That plan helps protect water through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, but also confines water management to a specific geographic region.
The plan establishes where a city can grow and how it can offer services, Chrysler said, so expanding outside of that current plan is not in the foreseeable future.